Sunday, July 20, 2014

Blame Canada For This Tasty Treat: Nanaimo Bars

The Nanaimo bar is a dessert item of Canadian origin popular across North America.

It is a bar dessert which requires no baking and is named after the west coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. It consists of a wafer crumb-based layer topped by a layer of light vanilla or custard flavoured butter icing which is covered with melted chocolate made from chocolate squares. Many varieties exist, consisting of different types of crumb, different flavours of icing (e.g., mint, peanut butter, coconut, mocha, butterscotch, etc.), and different types of chocolate.

The exact origin of the bar is unknown, though it is attributed to Nanaimo, British Columbia. Though the recipe was reported as appearing in the annual Ladysmith and Cowichan Women's Institute Cookbook, no such cookbook has been found and there is no record of this organization. The earliest confirmed printed copy of the recipe using the name "Nanaimo Bars" appears in the Edith Adams' prize cookbook (14th edition) from 1953. A copy of the book is on view at the Nanaimo museum.

However, following research into the origins of Nanaimo Bars, Lenore Newman writes that the same recipe was published in the Vancouver Sun earlier that same year under the name "London Fog Bar". The recipe later also appears in a publication entitled His/Her Favourite Recipes, Compiled by the Women's Association of the Brechin United Church (1957), with the recipe submitted by Joy Wilgress, a Baltimore, Maryland, native (p.52). (Brechin United Church is in Nanaimo.) This recipe also is reprinted in Kim Blank's book, Sex, Life Itself, and the Original Nanaimo Bar Recipe (Umberto Press, 1999, pp.127-29).

In 1954 the recipe "Mabel's Squares" (p.84) was published in "The Country Woman's Favorite" by the Upper Gloucester Women's Institute (New Brunswick). The recipe was submitted by Mrs. Harold Payne, the daughter of Mabel (Knowles) Scott (1883-1957). The ingredients list, quantities, and fabrication closely match the recipe found on the City of Nanaimo web site.

The first printing of recipes featuring Nanaimo Bar ingredients is found in the 1952 Women's Auxiliary to the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook, which features three nearly identical recipes that differ only slightly from the modern Nanaimo Bar. They are referred to as the "Chocolate Square" or the "Chocolate Slice".

Other unconfirmed references date the bars back to the 1930s, when it was said to be known locally as "chocolate fridge cake". Some New Yorkers claim the recipe originated in New York and refer to them as "New York Slices". However, Tim Hortons coffee shops, a Canadian chain, sell them in New York as "Nanaimo Bars". One modern reference even refers to the bars' existing in nineteenth century Nanaimo.

The popularity of the bar in Nanaimo led local residents to mobilise to have it voted "Canada's Favourite Confection" in a National Post reader survey. In 1985, Mayor Graeme Roberts initiated a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo bar recipe, and the recipe submitted by Joyce Hardcastle, a resident of Nanaimo, was unanimously selected by a panel of judges.

If you're visiting British Columbia, the official tourism site of Nanaimo Canada provides a map and a list of 34 places where you can find several variations of the confection including a deep fried Nanaimo bar and a Nanaimo bar tea latte.


Joyce Hardcastle's Nanaimo Bar Recipe From Foodista Creative Commons
Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds
1 cup coconut

Second Layer
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar

Third Layer
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Bottom Layer: Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan. Second Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer. Third Layer: Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.

Text Credits: Wikipedia || Nanaimo Canada || Foodista Creative Commons || Image Credit: Nanaimo Bar

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Poutine ~ Canada's Delish 'Hot Mess' Dish

Poutine (/puːˈtiːn/; French: [putin], Quebec French:[put͡sɪn]

[Press the button to hear pronunciation of the word Poutine by a Quebec CA native ] 
is a common Canadian dish, originating in Quebec, made with french fries, topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce and cheese curds. This fast food dish can now be found across Canada, and is also found in some places in the northern United States and the United Kingdom.

It is sold in small diners (commonly known as cantines or casse-croûtes in Quebec) and pubs, as well as by roadside fry wagons (commonly known as cabanes à patates, literally "potato shacks"). and hockey arenas. National and international chains like New York Fries, McDonald's, A&W, KFC, Burger King, and Harvey's also sell mass-market poutine in Canada (although not always country-wide). In the basic recipe for poutine, French fries are covered with fresh cheese curds, and topped with brown gravy.

In a Quebec poutine: French fries: Usually of medium thickness, and fried (sometimes doubly) so that the inside stays soft, while the outside is crispy. Cheese curds: Fresh cheese curds are used to give the desired texture. The curd size may vary but is usually slightly smaller than bite-sized. Brown gravy:

Traditionally a light and thin chicken, veal, or turkey gravy, mildly spiced with a hint of pepper, or a sauce brune which is a combination of beef and chicken stock, a variant originating in Quebec. The gravy should be thin enough to easily filter down into the mass of fries and cheese curds.

These sauces typically also contain vinegar or a sour flavoring to balance the richness of the cheese and fries. Traditional poutine sauces (mélange à sauce poutine) are sold in Quebec, Ontario, and Maritime grocery stores in jars or cans and in powdered mix packets. Heavy beef or pork-based brown gravies are rarely used. To maintain the texture of the fries, the cheese curd and gravy are added immediately prior to serving the dish. The hot gravy is usually poured over the cold cheese curds, so that the cheese is warmed without completely melting. It is important to control the temperature, timing and the order in which the ingredients are added, so as to obtain the right food textures which is an essential part of the experience of eating poutine.



Variations ~

There are many variations of poutine. Recently, some outlets have begun to offer vegetarian gravy as an option to cater to vegetarians. Some restaurants offer poutine with such toppings as chicken, bacon, or Montreal-style smoked meat. Some such restaurants even boast a dozen or more variations of poutine.

For instance, more upscale poutine with three-pepper sauce, merguez sausage, foie gras or even caviar and truffle can be found. Some variations eliminate the cheese, but most Québécois would call such a dish a frite sauce ("french fries with sauce") rather than poutine.
Shawinigan and some other regions have patate-sauce-choux where shredded raw cabbage replaces cheese. Fast food combination meals in Canada often have the option of getting french fries "poutinized" by adding cheese curds (or shredded cheese in the Prairies and Western Canada) and gravy.

 Sweet potato has been used to be a healthy alternative to french fries. The idea of adding dietary fiber and vitamins in this classic dish is widely appraised by the public. Crinkle-cut fries may be used as well. Outside Canada, poutine is found in northern border regions of the United States such as New England, the Pacific Northwest and the Upper Midwest.

These regions offer further variations of the basic dish. Cheeses other than fresh curds are commonly used (most commonly mozzarella cheese), along with beef, brown or turkey gravy. In the county culture especially, a mixed fry can also come with cooked ground beef on top and is referred to as a hamburger mix, though this is less popular than a regular mix.

Text Credit: Wikipedia || Photo Credit: Photo by PerryPlanet at wikimediacommons || Sound Credits: Pronunciation of the word Poutine || MP3 player created by sookietex at MP3player


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Spam, The Canned Pre-Cooked Meat, Not Unsolicited e-mail

Spam, The Canned Pre-Cooked Meat, Not Unsolicited e-mail

Spam is a canned precooked meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation, first introduced in 1937. The labeled ingredients in the classic variety of Spam are chopped pork shoulder meat, with ham meat added, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, sugar, and sodium nitrite as a preservative. Spam's gelatinous glaze, or aspic, forms from the cooling of meat stock.

In the United States in the aftermath of World War II, a troupe of former servicewomen was assembled by Hormel Foods to promote Spam from coast to coast. The group was known as the Hormel Girls and associated the food with being patriotic. In 1948, two years after its formation, the troupe had grown to 60 women with 16 forming an orchestra. The show went on to become a radio program where the main selling point was Spam. The Hormel Girls were disbanded in 1953. Spam is still quite popular in the United States, but is sometimes associated with economic hardship because of its relatively low cost.

On average, each person on Guam consumes 16 tins of Spam each year and consumption is similar in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Hawaii, and Saipan, the CNMI's principal island. These areas have the only McDonald's restaurants that feature Spam on the menu.

Spam was introduced into the aforementioned areas, in addition to other islands in the Pacific such as Okinawa and the Philippine Islands, during the U.S. military occupation after World War II.

Since fresh meat was difficult to get to the soldiers on the front, World War II saw the largest use of Spam when it was served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (Some soldiers referred to Spam as "ham that didn't pass its physical" and "meatloaf without basic training".)  Soldiers commonly referred to Spam as "Special Army Meat" due to its introduction during the war. Surpluses of Spam from the soldiers' supplies made their way into native diets. Consequently, Spam is a unique part of the history and effects of U.S. influence in the Pacific.

The residents of the state of Hawaii consume the most Spam per capita in the United States. Hawaiian Burger King restaurants began serving Spam in 2007 to compete with the local McDonald's chains. In Hawaii, Spam is so popular it is sometimes referred to as "The Hawaiian Steak". One popular Spam dish in Hawaii is Spam musubi, where cooked Spam is combined with rice and nori seaweed and classified as onigiri.


The perception of Spam in Hawaii is very different from that on the mainland. Despite the large number of mainlanders who consume Spam, and the various recipes that have been made from it, Spam, along with most canned food, is often stigmatized on the mainland as "poor people's food". In Hawaii, similar canned meat products such as Treet are considered cheaper versions of canned meat than Spam. This is a result of Spam having the initial market share and its name sounding more convincing to consumers.

In these locales, varieties of Spam unavailable in other markets are sold. These include Honey Spam, Spam with Bacon, and Hot and Spicy Spam.

In the CNMI, lawyers from Hormel have threatened legal action against the local press for running articles alleging ill-effects of high Spam consumption on the health of the local population.

Spam that is sold in North America, South America, and Australia is produced in Austin, Minnesota (also known as "Spam Town USA") and in Fremont, Nebraska. Austin, Minnesota has a restaurant with a menu devoted exclusively to Spam, called "Johnny's SPAMarama Menu".

In 1963, Spam was introduced to various private and public schools in South Florida as cheap food and even for art sculptures. Due to the success of the introduction, Hormel Foods also introduced school "color-themed" spam. The first being a blue and green variety which is still traditionally used in some private schools of South Florida.

In 2007, the seven billionth can of Spam was sold.

Text Credit: Wikipedia || Image Credit: TJSLabs